Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

A book that has come to my attention is:  IN SUNSHINE AND IN SHADOW (a mother’s story of autism and addiction); by Dixie Miller Stewart,

Dixie’s son, Rob is serving seventeen years to life in a California State Prison.  Although his mother was accustomed to receiving calls asking, “Are you the mother of Robert Bowers?” nothing could have prepared her for the call letting her know that her son had stabbed a man.

Rob didn’t merely stab the man because of that day’s pain.  He stabbed what that man represented:  someone bigger and worse; someone who didn’t play fair; who sexually violated his body and innocence; someone who had repeatedly robbed him of all his possessions…and twice left him for dead from stab wounds, and who countless times mocked and humiliated him in public. He finally stabbed those men back.

In 2003, Robert Bowers waived trial and plead guilty to murder in the second degree.  In her book, IN SUNSHINE AND IN SHADOW, his mother tells his compelling, heartbreaking story.  It is not a tale of heroics, success, or courage as society defines those, neither is it one about the transcendence of the human spirit over evil to some higher plane.  It is instead a story about the mere survival of the broken spirit of a very shy, strangely disabled, usually gentle, and almost always tormented young man.

Autism, addiction, and abuse made life an incredible struggle for Rob.

Dixie Miller Stewart writes to give a voice to Rob and the men and women like him who don’t fit any molds, neither those society sets for them, nor those of “criminal.”  They are the lost people who in desperate moments, made awful decisions for which they will pay the rest of their lives.  And his story is to give understanding to frightened parents, a heart to a society hardened by behaviors it doesn’t understand, and a conscience to anyone who rejects the “different” child.  She challenges readers to look past their prejudices.

My experience teaching in prison tells me that Rob’s story is all too common. In last week’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote an article called, “Inside a Mental Hospital Called Jail.

Today’s NY Times (Feb 16) carries several responses to Mr. Kristof’s article in the Review Section.

IN SUNSHINE AND IN SHADOW is available from the author or from Amazon

Am I soft on crime? No. Restorative Justice calls for the justice system to restore the victim, the offender and society. Restorative JusticeAll points are important. My particular work is with the offender.

Think about that – restore the offender. That means the history in the person’s mind has to be explored and his or her ideas have to be changed. And change is always hard work. Right now a person is sentenced to sit on their ass for X number of years in a cage. What good does that do? Let’s say a man breaks into a house to steal money, so he can buy drugs. There’s a lot of work ahead:

  • First of all, he has to overcome addiction, a very significant battle.Robber
  • He has to make whole the people whose house he broke into. More than likely, their insurance went up
  • He must go into his psyche and his history and find out why he does what he does.

We in the public think this kind of work happens in prison. It doesn’t.  We need helping structures with very trained people to accomplish these things. Expensive? Yes, but cheaper than more crime and cheaper that the $100 dollars a day for twenty years that it takes to keep a man in prison for that time. That’s damn near a million bucks.

And for the offender, he has to do the hardest of things – change.

“But,” the public says, “Don’t corrections do that, help the inmate?” No, corrections don’t correct, they often make things worse, but that’s another post.

We’ve been soft on crime, we’ve been tough on crime. When are we going to be smart on crime?


Images courtesy of: